The door to her apartment loomed before her. Screaming for Dennis, she didn’t stop running knowing he’d open it and close it behind her. She dropped her purse and peeled off her wet clothes. By the time she reached the bathroom, she was naked.
“Cold. So cold.” Her teeth chattered and her entire body shook as she turned on the hot water and stepped into the steaming jet. She turned in circles trying to warm all of her skin as quickly as possible. The face of the earsplitting banshee broke her blank thoughts and sent a new wave of crawling flesh up her arms.
She opened her eyes to stop the image but the face played like a movie on the rippled shower curtain. “No, no, no,” she screamed as she yanked the plastic curtain aside and saw nothing but tile and steam on the other side. Backing up under the water again, afraid to close her eyes, she rubbed her pebbled skin urging the blood to warm and course again and stop the endless quaking in the pit of her stomach.
Slowly her body absorbed the heat of the shower. The trembling subsided when the dying woman failed to reappear. Her back to the flow, she arched her spine and allowed the heat to wash out the chill from her tresses. Still too scared to close her eyes for long, she blinked furiously to keep the water from splashing and burning them. Finally, calmed and breathing without effort, Cordy wrapped a thick towel around her body and stepped from the tub.
Her bedroom was dark. A spear of dread kept her from entering.
“Dennis. Lights please.” Her bedside lamp glowed, but there were too many shadowed corners to afford her comfort. “More. All the lights, please.” Obediently, Dennis turned on every light in the apartment. “Thank you, Dennis.”
She rubbed her skin raw with the deep-piled towel and then dabbed her hair with it to catch any drips. Slipping on a heavy sweatshirt and pants, she didn’t feel normal until she wrapped her feet in thick, fuzzy socks. Warm and relaxed at last, she sighed and sat on her bed to comb out the tangles. The teeth of her comb scraped on the back of her neck and she hissed from the pain.
“Ow! What the hell?” Scooting off the bed, she went to her mirror, turned and lifted her hair. There from her nape to just below her collar were four jagged scratches. “How…when did that happen?”
She touched them gingerly and found they were dry and swollen, but not scabbing yet. Must have scratched myself in my sleep or maybe during the vision. She shrugged. Something as normal as scratching herself made her feel all was right in her world again. This was typical and real and reminded her that freaky as the day had been, this was her life.
She laughed at her earlier behavior. Running through the streets like a hunted animal. Running from a dream. That’s all it had been. A daydream caused by the vision. She was tired and had just dozed off and picked up the vision where it left off. That’s all.
And now that she’d analyzed what had happened, she realized her head was pounding. “Thank, God. Vision headache alive and kicking.” She took ten minutes to dry her hair and then slid under her comforter. “Dennis, you can turn off the lights now.” Fear yanked at her chest as the darkness surrounded her, but when nothing jumped from the shadows she chuckled at her stupidity and shut her eyes.
She was bloody and smelled delicious. His mouth watered, his fangs bared and his tongue swept the air to capture more of the delectable aroma. She wasn’t far ahead of him. The rapid drumming of her heart and her labored panting were music carried on the mist to his sensitive ears. Then he was on all fours sprinting through the thick, damp underbrush, his nostrils guiding him like an arrow toward his prey.
The rough bristly fur that covered him shimmered when it met moonlight and looked like folded silk. Pride in his strength and power surged from his chest and energized his muscled limbs to pump harder. She was only yards ahead, her feet stumbling, her arms grasping for a savior made of more than fog or wood. Her terror titillated him making his hunger boil up into a deafening roar that shattered the deathly stillness.
She screamed in response, a mistake that slowed her just enough for him to close the gap. Leaves and dirt kicked up from her running feet slapped his face. He leaped and pushed her down ending the chase. He growled in victory and roughly smacked her shoulder rolling her over. Pouncing on her, he pulled back his lips to bear his razor sharp fangs and raised his talons to slash her throat. As his hand arced through the air toward her, he recognized the crazed frightened hazel orbs just before…
“Cordelia!” Angel shot up in his bed, shock and delight warring in his body. “Holy shit. What was that?” He gulped for air and clarity. His eyes searched the room for anything lurking, not certain he was fully awake.
As his body unwound from its defensive mode, he began to scrutinize the dream. For sure that *thing* wasn’t him. At least it wasn’t his body. Whatever he had hopped a ride inside of was strong, malevolent and nothing he’d ever seen or felt before. But he knew what it wanted and it made him tremble with familiar yearning.
The red liquid crystal display blinked 5:34 a.m. He reached for the phone needing to assure himself that she was fine. Fingers pressed three numbers and then hung up. It was just a dream. She’s sleeping and needs to rest.
Settling back under the sheets, he stared at the ceiling going through the events in his mind again and again. Finally convincing himself it was just a dream, he slipped back into comforting darkness hoping this time Cordy would be chasing him.
The Rains – Day 12
Cordelia lugged her drenched body from the nightmare bed and weaved toward the bathroom. Sweat beaded her forehead; her throat raspy and raw. With great effort, she lifted her face to the mirror and stared at her haggard image. Hair tangled wildly in the air, dark circles that reached mid cheek, washed out skin that hung from her bones and more scratches on her neck.
Her worn out eyes scanned the marks and her fingertips lightly stroked their length until the burning stopped her.
“I’ve either got to declaw myself or start wearing gloves to bed.” She opened the cabinet pulling out antiseptic cream for the scratches and aspirin for her still throbbing brain.
As she applied the cream, she ran through the dream. Another chase one. This time she looked into the black eyes of the beast before… God, what the hell was she afraid of? “Whatever it is, I’d better get over it soon. I need some uninterrupted sleep, goddamn it.”
She shook two tablets onto her palm, picked up the glass and turned on the faucet. The cool water fell and coiled around the drain and slithered into the black void of the pipes. Cordy stared at the sluicing liquid for a long time expecting…something. Something was coming. She waited and waited, every muscle tensed ready to react when whatever it was appeared.
A breeze blew through her hair slamming the cabinet door loudly. Cordy gasped dropping the aspirin in the sink. She blinked away the haze and slowly refocused her eyes on her reflection.
Panting like an 80 year old through chapped lips, her heart stopped with a fresh panic. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t swallow. The saliva drooled from the corners of her mouth and streamed over her chin. Get a grip, Chase. Breathe and swallow. Babies do it all the time. She took three deep breaths, closed her mouth and stretched her neck. It wasn’t very natural, but she concentrated and forced her muscles to contract and suck down the spit.
“God, what’s up with that? No way am I going to try to swallow pills that could choke a small country.” Turning off the water she padded back to the bedroom to sleep off the pain instead.
She shucked off the heavy sweats and socks, pulled on a tank and boxers and shoved the comforter onto the floor. She was burning up and even the normally smooth cotton sheets irritated her overly sensitive skin.
It was already past ten, but she wasn’t giving up on going to work just yet. If she could just get some sleep, she would probably feel well enough to trudge in sometime in the afternoon. She had just pinned her hopes on that thought when the vision hit again.
Her back vaulted and her fingers dug deep into the mattress, sheets twisting in her gnarled grasp. As the woman sank deeper into the wet depths, pulled by some unseen evil, Cordy experienced not only the victim’s terror but also something she’d never felt in a vision before…her own fear.
Horror-filled green orbs begged Cordy for help. She knew merely reaching for her could save the woman. Her arm muscles ached to lunge forward. Her fingers burned to break the water’s surface and entwine with the delicate ones just below. Nothing stopped her from helping except that worm of dread in her mind that slithered, tunneled and twisted around her courage rendering her powerless. Cordy could only stare in shock as the jewel-colored eyes disappeared behind an inky veil.
A second after she vanished, the last air pushed through the woman’s dead lips and drifted upward. The bubbles caught in a whirlpool and started to curl, coalesce and transform from gas to solid. Faster it twirled filtering air from the water molecules and increasing its mass.
Cordy became hypnotized by the beauty and impossibility of it. As it grew its speed became blinding until it was a blurred circle just beneath the water’s edge. Her mouth dropped open in awe and her arm stretched forward haltingly, curious but afraid at the same time. Somehow she knew that to touch it would be to give it life.
She started to draw back her hand when a wave crested and wet her fingertip. Instantly the once whirling circle broke form and burst through the surface flying into her mouth and sliding down her throat. Ice-cold fire began strangling her. She felt her pink lungs darken as the fluid form replaced the air with water. She beat at her chest to try to expel the invader but only felt it slide down further. Tendrils of cold began to radiate from her center and loop around her spine…
Her eyes shot open to the sounds of her own choking gasps and high-pitched ringing. A sharp, hot pain ran up her arm from her clenched fists and forced her to focus on the effort of uncurling her cramped fingers.
Still breathing raggedly, she slowly massaged one hand with the other until she could use them to help her sit. Hauling her limp legs over the side of the bed, she drooped from the exertion it took. She splayed a palm on her heaving chest and used the other to dampen down the ringing in her throbbing temple.
When the ringing only got louder, she finally connected the sound to the phone next to her and sighed. “Jesus, enough of the goddamn misery already.” Her hand shook as she picked it up angrily and asked, “What?”
“Cordelia? Are you okay?” Angel’s voice was clearly concerned which for some reason only pissed her off.
“Are you sure? It took you a long time to answer.”
“I said I’m fine.” She ground out the last word through locked jaws.
The silence from Angel made her more tense and frustrated. She didn’t even have the comfort of being able to hear him breathe.
“Well, gee, Angel, this has been fun, but I’ve got to get back to dying now. Bye.”
“Wait, Cordy! I thought you said you were fine.”
She so wished he was there so she could shove a cross down his throat. “Angel, how’s your head?”
“My head? It’s fine.”
“Good! Being my champion and all, I want you to give me your head and you can have mine. Could we do that, huh?” She rubbed her temple and her forehead wrinkled with the piercing waves of pain.
“I guess that means you’re head isn’t okay? Does it still hurt from the vision yesterday?”
“Actually, that would be the good scenario. But in addition to yesterday’s pain, I now have twice the doubly hot poker fun due to the yummy vision I just had.”
“I’m…uh…sorry. About the hot pokers. Can you tell me about it?”
“Well, they’re long iron rods that you stick in a fire until…”
“I meant the vision, Cordelia. Tell me about the vision.”
“Sure, because why would you need to hear about my pain?” In an instant she decided she wouldn’t tell him anything about the weird, personal part of the vision. Until she knew what the fuck had happened, she didn’t have the energy or good health right now to hammer it out with him.
“Umm, it was the same vision as yesterday. The same drowning woman, except today there was definitely something pulling her down. I still didn’t see what it was but it felt…ghost like. Ethereal, non-corporeal, gone with the wind kinda feeling.”
“A non-corporeal demon of some kind. Anything else like where or when?”
“Not exactly. It felt really deep and dark so it’s either a lake or maybe the ocean.” She concentrated on the taste of the water rushing into her mouth and filling her lungs and began to shake violently at the memory.
Angel heard her rapid breaths and heartbeat speed up. He could practically smell her fear through the phone. “Cordy, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, uh, the water…it wasn’t salty. It’s a lake in the hills maybe…the Hollywood Reservoir!”
“Good, that’s good. Do you know when?”
“I’m not sure.” Frustrated and terrified at the thought of having to go through this again, she let her feelings out. “Damn it! I don’t want to have to waste another vision on this.”
“Cordelia? What the hell does that mean?” Angel’s shock came through loud and clear.
“It means I’m tired of having to go through the hot poker rumba for the same vision over and over again. One vision per victim. That’s the rule! What makes this bitch so special?” Her voice hitched and she sniffed back a tear that threatened to ruin her facade.
“Cordelia!” She hated that daddy tone in his voice.
“What? It’s the truth. We could be saving three people for the searing pain I’m having because of one. Where’s the justice in that? Ya know, don’t answer that. Get Wesley on the see-through demon search, and I’ll see you later assuming my head doesn’t fall off.”
Slamming the phone down only made her head pound more. She fell back on the bed and using all the strength she had left pulled her legs up and under the sheets. Clasping the thin fabric tightly around her shoulders, she tried to stave off the chills taking over her body.
“Dennis, the comforter, please.”
The tufted cover drifted over her and was tucked in around her in seconds. “Thank you,” she murmured as her jaw relaxed under the added warmth and she began to doze at last.